Monthly Archives: December 2003

MMIV

12/31/03

You know, you can say what you want about New York City; I certainly do. You can talk about the terrorist alerts, the manhole covers being welded shut, the trash bins and mailboxes being carted away, and being frisked every few blocks. You could also complain about the weather, the occasional puddles of urine, the traffic, the noise, the crass commercialism, and the sheer bother of doing anything near the City.

But there’s nothing like New Year’s Eve here with like-minded souls. And here I write, still up after three parties, 7:15am and the sun already risen. We talked movies with Ben Feldman, listened to Isabel Rose sing, commiserated with some of my favorite brothers from Carolina, drank Veuve Cliquot, and waxed lit crit with Virginia Heffernan, Dave Samuels, Linda and S. Metcalf clear until the sun rose a new year over Brooklyn. We are so blessed to be among these people in the real world, and I feel blessed to be among you in the virtual one. Have a great 2004, ok?

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clockwise from left: me, Dan Goldstein(yeah!), Alex Yong, Ali Farahnakian, Fred Weller, John Lasala and James Beeler

MMIII

12/30/03

I don’t know how the rest of you do it, but each year has a certain “flavor” to it. I look back upon certain calendar years with a sort of hyper-awareness that borders on the savantly autistic, which is why I can name the month and date of pretty much every pop song from the early ’70s to about 1993.

1982 was blissful, 1985 was cataclysmic, 1992 was dreary, 1995 was a renaissance, 2001 was heart-wrenching… you get the picture. It takes some time, perhaps a few years, for a past year to develop its flavor, but it always comes. 2002 defined itself early for me; it has now become a blank, worried slate dominated by my runaway anxiety and the drugs that helped quell it. 1997 is still percolating.

I have a few things to say about 2003. You do too, so please write them in your own blogs, or use the “comments” button below so I can hear them.

For me, it will be The Year I Got Married. So much of my life, thought and physical labor was wrapped up in the preparation for marriage that it seemed like a game of Chutes and Ladders; I walked into May and suddenly found myself in September. In many respects, our wedding was a watershed moment for me, because I finally understood that my rampant self-loathing, long-cultivated from childhood, wasn’t getting me anywhere and was mostly bullshit. That someone like Tessa would marry me, actually go through with it, has given me a confidence that I could never have summoned even with the staff of the Manhattan Project working on it full-time.

Before I kept a public blog here, I kept a private diary in the recesses of my computer, and last week I stumbled upon some entries from early 2000. Frankly, I have never read the words of anyone more dipped in shit. The lachrymose pleadings, the saturnine moans of a person stuck in a hell of his own making, is enough to give you goiters. What’s worse is that the writing is sorta bad. I can take a lot of things from my past self, but sub-par writing is not one of them.

Anyway, the next entry was in October (my diary, unlike this blog, was wildly sporadic) and it was like a different human being was typing. Loose, effortless, honest, funny… and with Tessa. It only got better, and our wedding was the culminating ceremony of a true conversion. It made me feel as though everyone gets a second act. Even the reviled are capable of redemption. God, my friends are amazing.

Speaking of which, 2003 made me miss them the most. Apart from days surrounding the wedding, I became acutely aware this year that we are not all living together. Even my post-adolescent fantasies of having a big artist commune, calling upon the different strengths of our coterie (Ann does poetry, Salem tells stories and gets the steak, Sean sings, Lindsay puts on a play, Colin writes the newsletter, Chip provides color commentary, Block keeps our money, Bud bikes to the next village for news, and Michelle tends to his wounds when he runs into a tractor) seem more distant.

Very few of us have children yet, so we are in that holding pattern of being partnered, yet untethered. But I think that thin, gossamer rope is threading itself for many of us, a foghorn in the dark sea mist that says that kids may be forming. I hope so. This is the first year I have thought seriously about being a father, which fills me with 50% ecstasy and 50% freaking out spasmodic oh-my-fucking-god. Mindful of how hapless haploids can be, Tessa and I always begin each sentence on the subject with “Ifwe’reluckyenoughtohavechildren, I think…”

By the way, I usually finish that sentence “…we should move to France.”

Which brings me to another way to look at 2003: The Year Everything Stayed the Same and Thus Got Worse. It has gotten to the point where I can’t discuss politics anymore, can barely stand to think of it. While we were writing “13th-GEN,” Neil and Bill predicted that I would become more conservative as I grew older, and, ten years later, I am pleased (and frustrated) to report that I am ten times the leftist commie anarchist bastard I was at 25.

It seemed for a while, for a brief opalescent flicker, that the Democrats might be able to present a challenge to the Forces of Mordor currently running the country – but each day that seems like more of a distant dream. The media has fallen in lockstep, calling Howard Dean “angry,” “a loose cannon,” “unprincipled,” “too smart” or “short,” or worse, “a loser.” Americans are dumb, and part of why they’re dumb is that they hate people they think are losers. And god knows what blue crack Kerry is smoking – it’s like he trying to give the election to Bush.

It doesn’t matter anyway. As a progressive liberal, all this wrangling is so much re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I think we all know, in our heart of hearts, that we are stuck with the Republicans not just in 2004, but probably 2008 as well. This is a fatigue-filled defeat that will define this year as well.

There is a bright spot – Massachusetts has set the stage for gay marriage. It’s a small victories you have to relish when so much else is so awful.

Small victories are also what we had with the Pink House movie this year. Although we were blindsided by a betrayal already documented on these pages, we had three screenings of the rough cut that went over exceptionally well, given the circumstances. I know we have a movie in there, waiting to leap out. This is the third year of our struggle to see it happen. Please give us 2004, O Lord. We’ve earned it.

And so have all of you. I hope you say goodbye to 2003 with much fanfare, and like me, tell it not to let the door hit its ass on the way out.

la grippe

12/26/03

Being sick is not just a physical ailment, it is an emotional space. You get the same feeling when you play hooky (or otherwise escape) from school; the world has this strange sheen about it that says “you probably shouldn’t be seeing all this.” I found it impossible to have much fun when I managed to pull off a missed school day. I was too wracked by guilt, and honestly, I wasn’t that much of a student, meaning I’d end up even more behind.

But sickness, too, allows the infirmed a glimpse at an alternate reality, one where the beneficence of the world becomes temporarily unavailable. Even a quick walk to the car to fetch a lost belonging becomes a monumental task of abject misery. It’s like that scene in “Beetlejuice” where Alec Baldwin steps out the door for 10 seconds, and Geena Davis tells him he was gone for three hours.

I’ve tried not to mention getting sick in this blog. There’s nothing more boring, more worthy of skimming to the pictures, than someone lamenting their virus. Plus, I was really sick last year at the exact same time with similar disclaimers, so it’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like (my body has an overwhelming allergy to) Christmas. But today I could barely talk, coughing up reams of horrifying crap, and even writing this sentence is taking all the late-anaphase mitosis I can muster.

I would, however, like to thank the following products:

1. Robitussin PM

messy christbus

12/25/03

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Every Christmas morning while we were growing up, the first things we’d get would be our stockings, usually full of See’s Candy, little Matchbox cars, candy canes… and an orange. The orange always confused me; it seemed like a deeply incongruous piece of Healthy in the middle of an otherwise wretched morass of chocolate and refined sugar. Most of the time, we chucked the orange behind our heads and tore into our presents: a new Colecovision cartridge, maybe the football game that vibrates, or a 1980 Portable Cassette Recorder. It wasn’t until one Christmas in 1993, when I was 25 or so, that I asked why we still had oranges in our stockings.

My mom explained that when she was a child, she used to get oranges in her stockings because when her mother was little, Great Grandma Pearl did the same. They were living during the mid-19th century in dusty, ruined, high-altitude flatlands of Eastern Colorado and Utah, and apparently an orange was so coveted, so precious, and so tasty, that it would be one of

we, like Chopes, have gone astray

12/23/03

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We were late getting the tree, most of our Christmas music was stolen last year, and I have the flu despite getting the shot – but we are definitely gearing up for a great Yuletide anyway, so sucks to your assmar, world!

Mom and I spent the day at the Crossgates Mall in Albany, and I’d just like to add that when we were kids, there was always parking at the mall, even if it was clear across the asphalt field. This is no longer true. Grown men and women were staking their claims to parking spots at the ass-end of humanity with the kind of fervor last recorded at the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Fortunately, we were driving the Prius around, so we could zip in and out of tiny spaces while the gas engine was off.

While Mom searched for a bathroom, I got stuck at the entrance to the Wal-Mart, allowing me to see every single human being exiting the store for 20 minutes. “People watching” doesn’t come close to describing the activity; it was like a crash course in semi-rural American sociology. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the two truths of middle-American fashion are Slutty and Large. I’m all for the roomy women wearing naught but halter tops, bandana bikinis and ill-fitting jeans, as long as our country is on the way to curbing eating disorders. This particular populace seemed to relish in their flabbiness in a way that contradicts the numbers on anorexia and bulimia, so I confess that I really don’t know what’s going on in the mind of your average 14-year-old girl from Utica.

Being sick is bad enough, but being sick at the mall is something else. Like a long plane flight, there’s something about the atmosphere of a mall that robs your body of moisture. My eyes began to hurt, my skin began to itch, and I craved water, gallons of it. Thank god the Apple Store was there to provide emotional salve (they also have the best bathrooms in America, for those of you playing at home).

The guys at the Verizon Wireless booth got in fisticuffs with a disgruntled patron trying to return a phone that had obviously been dropped down a garbage disposal. Dealing with cell phone dealers at a kiosk is always bad news (those dudes HATE their jobs) but this customer deserved a swift kick in the nuts. We got out of there before we got totally depressed.

Back home, Laurie and George had arrived, joining Michelle, Tessa, Steve and my Mom for dinner. Michelle made some kick-ass lasagna, and then the gals decorated sugar cookies until they were comatose. My task, you ask? I was asked to pluck every hair out of the Christmas Goose. I’ve never had a goose before, in fact, I don’t think any of us have, but Tessa, ever the holiday romanticist, wanted to try it for Christmas. After hearing the horror stories about plucking hairs out of the goose (apparently this is a job that has been doled out to unlucky Christmastime children since the 10th century), I had an epiphany.

As Laurie later said, “this is probably the only Christmas goose in North America that is getting shaved by a Mach 3.” And lo, the angel of the lord looked upon it, and it was good.

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1st annual ceremonial goose shaving

equivocation

12/22/03

We saw Shattered Glass tonight, the clunkily-rendered biopic of famed prevaricator Stephen Glass, who concocted tons of stories for The New Republic, Rolling Stone, and a few others. It was fascinating for us, since we occasionally wade up to the waist in that journalistic world (Glass’ haunts are Washingtonian, while ours are strictly New Yorkian), but mostly because we have just severed ourselves from a liar as equally convincing, ingratiating and ultimately destructive as Glass himself.

The curious part of lying is obvious: “they all find out sooner or later.” This works in equal and opposite synergy with “the bigger lie the more believable it is”; thus you find yourself ultimately unable to grasp the scope of what you’re stepping in. Surely they can’t be lying, you tell yourself, because that would take a myopia that borders on the pre-functional. In other words, babies have a better sense of right and wrong, and of consequence, than your liar friends.

I was never a pathological liar, because I always knew when I was doing it. I was incapable of deluding myself. I didn’t stop, however, and spent most of my teens and early 20s spinning various yarns of bullshit, always (like Glass) containing strange anecdotes that seemed so weird and particular that they had to be true. Basically, I lied because I hated who I was, and wanted my life to be more fascinating. I was lucky; I only had to lie until my life actually got as weird and interesting as the lies themselves. Without that odd intervention from reality, I might have never figured it out.

Tessa once said that the only tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous that is impossible to ignore is “rigorous honesty.” People who are incapable of telling themselves the truth stay drunk. I always thought that was a fascinating physical manifestation of the Lie Embodied.

It’s hard to forgive a liar; there’s just something in your mouth that never goes away. Even if you do forgive them, it tends to be an academic pursuit, a sense of “closure” that is intellectually satisfying, but honestly, you don’t really want to hang out with them anymore. There are plenty of lies from my late adolescence that I will never admit, because it’s just too painful, and I know that they could never be taken in the spirit in which they’d be revealed. Sometimes you really do have to cut yourself a break, forgive your past persona, and move on.

Perhaps marriage is a bit of a tabula rasa for us, a way we can recast ourselves without the detritus and self-loathing of our past lives. Take the best of who we were and agree to wipe the blackboard clean. I wonder if some women actually take comfort in changing their names. Perhaps I should change mine.

I’m sure there will be suggestions.

winter solstice

12/21/03

Like Charlie Brown in a black coat, hands in pockets, looking for a tree.

I’ve tried, I just can’t make it work.

Blistering country full of awful people

Subdued

Frustrated

Angry

Furious

Loathing

Why now? Was there a halcyon and we all missed it?

Orange terror, and my family lives in it

Heartbroken, sick, misunderstood

Could we have been working all this time on something nobody will ever see?

Lesser minds reap untold millions

Cruel, arbitrary

Cruel, arbitrary

career in the toilet

Supercilious

Spurious

Useless

Unfortunate

Lifted the bat, but too tired to swing

But they are only mirages.

They are apparitions created out of your own insouciance, the carefree finality that descends once you’ve decided to leave a place.

God may punish you by answering your prayers, but he also gives you anything you want once you stop caring.